SN 1 EP 3

The Personal Price an Entrepreneur Pays

Feat. Laurel Thompson, founder of Beya Made

While Beya Made is shaking up the children’s clothing space, starting her own business meant Laurel had to make certain sacrifices.

While becoming an entrepreneur gave Laurel a certain amount of flexibility that most climbing the corporate ladder never gain, she quickly realized that carving your own path can also come at a personal cost.

Laurel Thompson is a recovering fast-fashion designer. After spending her career in the world of NYC fashion, she landed back in her hometown of Atlanta, GA where she now lives with her husband and daughter, Beya—the inspiration behind her children’s clothing line, Beya Made.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Great, more outfits my toddler will outgrow in months,” think again. Laurel’s sustainably sourced, ethically produced designs grow with your kid, allowing them to fit at least three times longer than other childrenswear.

On this episode

Laurel talks with Katie and Jenny about:

  • Adjusting to founder life when you have a family
  • How to know when you need to take a step back from your work
  • The legacy she wants to leave with Beya Made

Top takeaways

Editor’s Note: We’ve edited and condensed the questions and answers slightly for clarity.

Tell us about starting your business. What are some conversations you’ve had with your husband about what it’s been like? And how do you navigate the hard times together?

We were in a very fortunate, privileged position that my husband’s income was enough for us to live on when I started Beya Made. He could support our family comfortably on his income, but I don’t think he loved the idea of me leaving a well-compensated job with great benefits.

I didn’t realize how much that decision would affect me or our marriage on any level. Now, over 10 years later, I’m really starting to understand the inequity in that situation. And then you add motherhood on top of it, and it’s really profound because you think about your relationship as one of equals when you’re in your twenties.

When my husband and I first met in 2001, he was in grad school and he was a janitor. I had just graduated from college. I was working in an art gallery. We were equal in every way. And then our careers went in two different directions.

When I had a baby, I was still working in the corporate world, and I felt that inequality big time. I’m grateful that I had a paid maternity leave, but it just didn’t feel like a good deal. And when I walked away from that, I really wanted to create an environment for myself to thrive in where I felt like I could also be available to my child and to myself.

Walking away from that job and transitioning to my own business, if I had really known what I was in for, I might have rethought it.

I pretty much work all the time. And it’s a stressor on our marriage because my husband would like for me to be more present. And the dynamic now is that he’s making so much more money than I am.

I think there’s a little bit of the unconscious expectation that if our child is sick or school is closed, mom is going to stay home—mom will go pick you up from school or mom will take you to all the doctor’s appointments.

Yet I’m also trying to run my own business. And there’s also the pressure to contribute financially.

It’s a lot. And I acknowledge the privilege that I have—some people have it worse than I do, so I know that if I feel like I’m failing at everything, others are feeling it, too.

How did you know when it’s time to give yourself a break and take a step back from your work to recenter yourself?

I was looking at my marketing activities for the past year—what worked and what didn’t. And it was painful to realize that these events and sales that I had spent weeks preparing for would bomb, but the things that were last-minute bolts of inspiration or shower thoughts I implemented in 30 minutes would turn out great.

It got to the point where I wasn’t giving myself space to have those moments of inspiration. When you’re really busy, those shower moments disappear because you’re working too hard.

I realized if I wanted to do more of what was working, I needed to give myself the space to have these lightning bolts of inspiration.

You can’t force that to happen just like you can’t pull a flower out of the ground and make it grow. You just have to give it the right conditions. And I wasn’t giving myself the right conditions to have those.

Stepping back from the business was really about giving myself space to do more of what’s working.

What’s your dream for the future of Beya Made?

I would love to create a legacy for our kids.

I have a daughter, and it’s very important for me to be a role model to her—show her what it looks like to pursue a dream, to have grit, stick with something even when it’s hard, and not let someone decide what you do for a living.

I want her to see that this is an option in the world, even if it’s hard.

I would love to create a place that looks nothing like what I came from, but a place where women’s work is really respected and real life priorities and quality of life are a key factor.